Directed by Martin McDonagh
In Bruges is an English language black comedy set in Bruges. In Bruges is clever, but sometimes too clever. The jokes are consistently funny, but sometimes descend into mean-spiritedness, and the movie sometimes threatens to veer into nihilism.
Hell or High Water
Directed by David Mackenzie
Hell or High Water is a neo-western crime drama that follows two brothers who rob banks. Blending clichés of westerns, West Texas, bank robbing, and crime thrillers, some scenes work better than others. And the social commentary alternates between incisive and broad often. Hell or High Water, though, is always full of wit, life, and energy, and that, always, is enough.
Directed by Dan Gilroy
Nightcrawler is a thriller that follows a thief who begins shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles and selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a successfully unnerving performance as the sociopathic main character. The film’s tone, though, fluctuates wildly. The social comment is derivative and generally aimed at easy targets. Nightcrawler has a lot to say, but little of it is meaningful.
Would not see.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Vertigo, based on Boileau-Narcejac’s 1954 novel, D’entre les morts, is a psychological thriller about an acrophobic former police detective hired by an acquaintance as a private investigator. Vertigo is well-paced, well-shot, and well-acted, though some of the effects hold up better than others. The film, fittingly, leaves one mildly uncertain of what to make of anyone and less sure as one peers deeper.
The Bad Sleep Well
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
The Bad Sleep Well is a Japanese language thriller about revenge and corporate corruption. The film is occasionally sentimental and the female characters are thinly sketched, but it is still a great film. The Bad Sleep Well’s plot moves both unexpectedly and inevitably to its stark conclusion and pointed social criticism.
The Godfather Part II
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather Part II, partially based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel, The Godfather, is both a prequel and a sequel to Coppola’s 1972 film of the same name. The Godfather Part II has all of the well-crafted dialogue and well-framed shots of its predecessor, but lacks some of its tight pacing and thematic coherence. The prequel segments, particularly, tracking the rise of a young Vito Corleone, are not given enough time to fully develop as a meaningful complement to the film’s sequel narrative, following Vito’s son, Michael, and essentially end up being diversionary interruptions to the main story as a result.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather, based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel of the same name, is a crime drama about a fictional American mafia family from 1945 to 1955. The Godfather is easy to follow despite its dense plotting and, given its 177 minute run time, is about as tightly paced as one could reasonably expect. The film is well-written and well-shot, with deservedly iconic lines and scenes, though the film’s themes are sometimes too on the nose.
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
Dope is a crime comedy drama that follows three friends going to high school in Inglewood, California as a series of improbable circumstances drastically threatens their already tenuous situation. Whatever is wrong with Dope, it’s not for lack of aspirations. The film is ambitious in its subject matter, its plotting, its style, and its writing. Dope’s strong efforts and excellent acting, however, can’t entirely compensate for the film’s the scattershot pacing, inconsistent tone, occasional preachiness, and unsatisfying ending.
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Goodfellas, an adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s 1986 non-fiction Wiseguys, is a crime drama about mobsters from 1955 to 1980. Goodfellas is stylistically creative, well-paced, and intelligently written. The film starts to become disjointed towards the end, but not totally without thematic purpose.
City of God
Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund
City of God, an adaptation of Paulo Lins’s 1997 novel of the same name and loosely based on true events, is a Portuguese-language drama that depicts organized crime in Cidade de Deus from the late 1960s to the early 1980s primarily through the eyes of a narrator who is peripheral to most of the action. The film has a clear political message, but doesn’t pontificate or moralize. City of God is excellently paced and plotted, with fully sketched characters and carefully constructed narrative arcs. Its editing and visuals are ambitious and well-crafted, but occasionally distracting.